This post is sponsored by BECU. All opinions are my own.
I’m partnering with BECU this year to focus on financial health and well-being as well as to open up about my journey with debt and savings. BECU is a member-owned credit union focused on helping increase the financial health of its members with great tools and tips for budgeting.
Today I’m opening up about my relationship with money. I’m sharing how growing up in an immigrant household impacted the way I saw money as well as how I realized I could change the way I see money in my life. I was inspired to write this blog post as I’ve been reflecting on my own financial health and well-being. Personally improving and shifting my perspective around money was critical to my happiness and financial security.
How I grew up seeing money:
I am a child of immigrants. My family left the Philippines and arrived in Washington state with three suitcases of clothes and $1,000 in savings. My parents found work within the first week and we lived with extended family the first few months. While we were on food stamps, my parents saved as much as they could as we moved into our first apartment in Northeast Tacoma.
My parents stressed about money my entire childhood. Even as they saved enough money to put a down payment on a home, my parents were concerned about our finances. While my parents made sure we always had enough to eat, we lived paycheck to paycheck. We were frugal. My family never bought anything full-priced, we shopped at thrift stores to furnish our home, and at garage sales and clearance racks for clothes, shoes, and backpacks for school.
There was guilt around spending money and shame around not having money. Even as my parents slowly achieved the American dream of owning a home, two cars and a dog, my family felt unstable financially.
As I got ready for college, I truly learned my family’s financial situation as I sat down to fill out the FAFSA for the first time. My family had no savings for college and wasn’t even aware of the price of an education until I started getting acceptance letters and financial packages from schools.
With student loans, scholarships, grants, and summer internship money, I figured out how to finance my education.
I took my frugal lifestyle with me through college. I ate the same types of things for three years because I knew what I could buy with $35 a week in groceries. I continued shopping second hand and through clearance racks.
Up until my freshman year, I had no idea that I had a negative attitude towards money. I was taking American Politics in winter quarter and one of our homework assignments was to take an implicit bias test. It was my first time learning about bias, implicit and explicit attitudes. I was surprised when my test results were a negative attitude towards money.
I had no idea that taking this test would open up my eyes and start a new journey towards shifting how I saw money.
Step 1 in Improving My Relationship with Money: I realized my money mindset = stress, guilt, and shame
Learning about my bias towards money was a massive realization for me, and it was the first step in shifting my relationship with money. I didn’t know that people looked and experienced money differently than I did. The lack of money I experienced growing up tainted my relationship with money later on. For me, (the lack of) money = stress, guilt, and shame.
Though I was finally aware of my negative attitude towards money, I had no idea how to change it. I still lived a scarce lifestyle and continued to struggle with money through the end of college.
Step 2 in Improving My Relationship with Money: I decided I wanted to change the way I saw money in my life
When I graduated from college, I wanted to change my attitude towards money. I had entered a stable corporate job, was given a company car, and actually had disposable income after I paid my bills. I made a promise to myself that I would never live a paycheck to paycheck lifestyle.
One thing that helped me start changing the way I saw money was talking about money. As mentioned before, I was ashamed of the debt I had incurred and the lack of resources I experienced growing up. Only my closest friends who could relate to financing their own education knew about the hurdles I faced growing up.
But when I graduated, I realized that there was a mix of my friends who also took on debt and friends who graduated debt-free. I was particularly amazed at one friend I started working with who graduated debt-free. She shared with me how her parents set up a “fun” money account for her. She would use this account to invest in new businesses she saw in the market. Her parents gave her access to their financial advisors, and when she felt like investing she’d give him a call to move some money around.
That was the first time I had experienced a friend and a peer my age seeing money and investing as fun. I would have never learned about this new perspective if I hadn’t asked my friends how they saw money after college graduation.
Step 3 in Improving My Relationship with Money: I sought out financial education
A year out of college, I discovered Nicole Lapin, who hosts a podcast on finance. She shared how she also grew up with immigrant parents (who hid their life savings under mattresses). She shared her journey of learning how to be financially literate. Listening to her speak on the podcast inspired me to buy and read her book.
I realized that learning about money was helping me shift my attitudes towards it.
As I learned about interest rates and that you could actually fit fun things like getting your nails done into your budget, I realized that I could own my finances.
Step 4 in Improving My Relationship with Money: I started changing the narrative I told about money
I thought I was in a good place with money until one of my first fights with my boyfriend. We were planning our first international trip to Europe together. We were six months out from our trip and I was STRESSED that we hadn’t purchased tickets yet.
I was freaking out that ticket prices would continue to increase while he insisted that ticket prices could potentially fall. We went back and forth for a few weeks until I came to a tipping point. I was in tears as my stress levels reached new heights and finally Brandon asked, “why is purchasing this plane ticket stressing you out so much?”
I realized that my negative attitude towards money went deep into my core. I shared with Brandon that purchasing a plane ticket over $1,000 was incredibly stressful to me because of my past experiences. I shared with him the guilt I felt spending the money, and Brandon expressed that he wasn’t raised to see money the same way. To him, buying a plane ticket was just buying a plane a ticket.
After our fight, I made the conscious decision to commit to a new story when it came to my relationship with money.
Where my relationship with money is today
I’ve learned that I can acknowledge how my past affected my relationship with money and how my present has changed it. Yes, it’s true my family and I struggled financially growing up. But today I’m not struggling. I have a steady career and am financial stable. I can spend more than $35 a week on groceries. I am allowed to spend money on travel and new experiences. And if feelings of shame or guilt creep in every once in a while, that’s okay because I remind myself of where I am today. I’m proud that I can balance student debt and still save. I’m proud that I can acknowledge how my relationship with money has evolved.
Where is your relationship with money?
If you’re struggling with a money mindset, know that you aren’t alone. Here are a few questions I asked myself on my journey that helped me turn my relationship with money around:
- How did your family treat money growing up? Did you take any attitudes towards debt or spending habits with you?
- Do you like your current relationship with money? What ways would you want to improve it?
- Have you sought out ways to improve your financial health? Have you read any books or listened to any money related podcasts?
- How do your closest friends or significant other see money in their lives?
- What story have you told around money? Has your story around money changed over the years?
BECU Tools to Help You & Your Relationship with Money
As I mentioned above, one major step in improving my relationship with money was getting more educated about finances. I looked externally to learn more about money and this year, I decided to look internally at my own finances. Here are the two BECU tools I used to look at my finances:
BECU Financial Health Check. I scheduled a Financial Health Check with BECU to take a look at how I was spending money each month and how much I was saving. A Financial Health Check is a free 40-50 minute phone appointment with a Financial Health Check Specialist that is available to all current BECU members. During this session you’re able to look at your monthly budget as well as identify your financial goals. I had previously created a budget going into the session with BECU and was able to update it after I saw my true spending habits around going out to eat, shopping, and costs associated with blogging.
If you want to decrease and pay off your debt or want to put a budget together, you should consider scheduling an appointment today for a Financial Health Check.
BECU Money ManagerThe BECU Money Manager is one of my favorite tools from BECU – and it’s free to all members. You’re able to look at your BECU accounts and bank accounts from other financial institutions in one place. If you’re interested in tracking your spending or identifying your spending trends, the Money Manager tool is for you.
A part of changing my narrative and relationship with money was learning to not be afraid of it. The BECU Money Manager organizes where I spend my money and where my income comes from. Taking out anomalies like the holidays, I realized that my spending patterns for cost of living, eating out, and school were similar from month-to-month. Being transparent with myself about my personal finances has definitely improved my relationship with money!
Regardless of what your relationship with money is like, know that you have the power to shift your perspective. Thank you for reading!
Photos: Karya Schanilec